Officials from Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State Police joined forces to cut the ribbon — or, rather, a strip of yellow crime scene tape — on a new, first-of-its-kind digital forensics laboratory on EKU’s campus Friday.
“This is a win-win situation,” said state police Lt. Col. Jeff Medley at a news conference before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Kentucky State Police are able to have a satellite lab where we can help train some of the brightest students, who will hopefully come to the Kentucky State Police one day and work with us to help keep the Commonwealth safe.”
Thousands of crimes occur in Kentucky every day, and Medley noted that almost every type of incident — from drug offenses to car wrecks to homicides — leaves behind some type of electronic footprint. Uncovering evidence on hard drives, servers, tablets, cell phones, GPS devices and more creates quite a workload for KSP investigators.
The Digital Forensics Laboratory at EKU will act as a satellite to KSP’s Electronic Crime Branch in Frankfort, helping manage that workload and speeding up evidence recovery. It will also reduce travel time for eastern Kentucky’s many local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that rely on KSP forensic services.
The EKU facility will be staffed by a KSP sergeant and two full-time computer forensic examiners. They will be supported by student interns who are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in EKU’s Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity program.
“This partnership will allow us, in so many ways, to benefit students through internships and administrative roles, and to give them the hands-on experience that makes the EKU experience so unique,” said EKU President Dr. Michael T. Benson. “It is one thing to talk about what you read in a textbook or what you hear in a lecture, but it is quite another to go into a lab … and apply those lessons.”
“That gives our graduates that much more of an advantage,” he added.
Four interns have been selected to work in the lab for the Spring 2019 semester. They will work 10-15 hours per week in administrative and support roles, and they will earn one credit hour for every 80 hours of work in the lab.
The partnership was spearheaded by Kentucky State Police forensic examiner Kim Bradley, an EKU alum and one of two investigators who will staff the new lab, and Dr. Ka-Wing Wong, a professor in the Computer Science department who has been instrumental in bolstering the University’s cyber-security course offerings. The pair led dozens of guests on a tour of the 1,000-square-foot lab, which includes several computer workstations, evidence lockers and a tool bench for disassembling devices and physical storage media. It is located in the Memorial Science Building.
Friday’s news conference took place in a hallway and lobby connecting the Memorial Science Building to the Roark Building, which was named for EKU’s first president, Dr. Ruric Neval Roark. Dr. Roark’s son, Eugene Washburn Roark, was one of four EKU students and alumni who perished in World War I. Dr. Benson took the opportunity to thank everyone who wears the uniform, both military and first-responders.
“We are reminded that many have sacrificed a great deal to keep us safe, whether it’s in the armed services or at home, in our respective communities,” he said. “Eastern Kentucky University is known as the school that trains those first responders, and today is evidence of that commitment.”